Finding Herself: Examining Identity Formation in Female Canadian Backpackers
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This study addresses the shortage of research on the meaning of travel experiences for tourists as well as research on female travelers. I examine the activities of Canadian women who backpacked in Europe and to what extent, if any, these activities facilitated identity development. The sample group is comprised of 19 Canadian women ranging from 20-40 years of age. E-mail interviews were conducted with participants to gain information about their travel activities and the meanings of these activities. Identity growth was evaluated on the basis of participants’ reports including the extent to which participants reported experimentation. I hypothesized that during travel women would partake in risky behaviours (defined as increased alcohol and drug use, participation in adventure sports and atypical sexual activities) and thereby explore their identities. Interviews revealed that while women did explore their identities during travel, it was not primarily through risky behaviours. Moreover, participants responded with difficulty to questions concerning their out-of-character behaviours. Participants reported that while their behaviours may have been atypical, they did not necessarily define their behaviours as out-of-character. Rather, participants framed these behaviours as extensions of typical activities. Identity development principally resulted from respondents having to navigate the trip for themselves, which conferred a sense of independence and personal strength.